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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Do the current celebrations of YHWH's Festivals conform to Biblical standards?

In 2014, many Jews and a few Christians have attempted to celebrate the festivals outlined in the Mosaic Law. Indeed, many of them go on to assert that anyone who does not observe these festivals is NOT a "TRUE" believer and has FAILED to worship YHWH in the manner prescribed by "Him" in the Bible! Most of them are also ready with an elaborate list of proof-texts to support their observances and assertions. So how do these celebrations and elitist attitudes regarding the festivals compare to what is revealed in the Judeo-Christian Scriptures? In short, are these folks in compliance with the ordinances they claim to be observing?

Since the Bible claims that the observance of these festivals began with the Hebrews, I think it is appropriate to take a look at Jewish observances first. In their article on Jewish Holidays, Judaism 101 informs us: "Work is not permitted on Rosh Hashanah [Feast of Trumpets], on Yom Kippur [Day of Atonement], on the first and second days of Sukkot [Feast of Tabernacles], on Shemini Atzeret [Last Great Day], on Simchat Torah [an extra Last Great Day], on Shavu'ot [Feast of Weeks], and the first, second, seventh and eighth days of Passover. The "work" prohibited on those holidays is the same as that prohibited on Shabbat [the weekly Sabbath], except that cooking, baking, transferring fire and carrying, all of which are forbidden on Shabbat, are permitted on holidays. When a holiday occurs on Shabbat, the full Shabbat restrictions are observed." -- http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday0.htm (copyright held by Tracey R. Rich - and note that I have added the KJV nomenclature of the festivals for the sake of clarity)

Time and space do not permit me to do a line by line comparison of this statement with what is revealed in the twenty-third chapter of Leviticus, but I encourage my readers to do just that. If you do, you will notice that modern Jewish practices add a number of annual Sabbaths to what is outlined in Scripture (e.g. there are only two annual Sabbaths associated with Passover/Unleavened Bread in Scripture). Moreover, you will notice that the specific instruction in the Mosaic Law is that "ye shall do no servile work therein" (meaning one is not allowed to perform any menial task on those days). To be fair, the original instructions that were given to the Israelites regarding the Passover/Unleavened Bread exempt food preparation on the Sabbaths associated with this holiday (Exodus 12:16)

The Judaism 101 article continues: "You may notice that the number of days of some holidays do not accord with what the Bible specifies. In most cases, we celebrate one more day than the Bible requires." (emphasis mine) The article reminds us that the Jewish calendar is based on the lunar month. It goes on to explain this discrepancy between the Bible and modern Jewish practice regarding the number of days to be observed by relating the history of how the beginning of the lunar month was determined by the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem. As a consequence, we are told that this information did not always reach the people in outlying communities in time for them to determine the precise day on which to celebrate God's festivals - Hence, the practice of observing extra days to make sure that they hit the right one. Continuing, we read: "This practice of celebrating an extra day was maintained as a custom even after we adopted a precise mathematical calendar, because it was the custom of our ancestors. This extra day is not celebrated by Israelis, regardless of whether they are in Israel at the time of the holiday, because it is not the custom of their ancestors, but it is celebrated by everybody else, even if they are visiting Israel at the time of the holiday." Finally, we are informed that even Israeli Jews celebrate an extra day of Rosh Hashanah.

In addition to the festivals outlined above, it should be noted that modern Jews also celebrate Hanukkah [Feast of the Dedication], Tu B'Shevat, Purim, Lag B'Omer and Tish B'Av. Of these, only Purim and Lag B'Omer could be characterized as strictly Scriptural. Purim is commanded in the book of Esther and Hanukkah is observed in connection with the Apocryphal writings known as I and II Maccabees. Although these books do not appear in the Jewish or Protestant Canon, it is interesting to note that Jesus Christ observed Hanukkah (John 10:22).

It is also important to point out that all of these Jewish observances developed in the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Romans in 70 CE. As noted in a previous post, the Law of the Central Sanctuary is violated every time these festivals are observed outside of Jerusalem and apart from the Temple. We read: "Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the Lord thy God in the place which the Lord shall choose; in the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and in the Feast of Weeks, and in the Feast of Tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the Lord empty..." (Deuteronomy 16:16). From the beginning, it is made clear in Scripture that there was only one site that was acceptable to YHWH for festival observance - originally the Tabernacle and later the Temple in Jerusalem. Indeed, every instance of festival observance described in Scripture is connected to the central sanctuary or place of worship (including those of Jesus Christ and his family). This statement is true even in the passage where the observance of the Feast of Tabernacles is prophesied for all nations within the context of God's Kingdom! Notice this scripture: "And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain...This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles." (Zechariah 14:16-19)

OK, so we've demonstrated that most modern Jews are not in compliance with Moses' instruction not to add or subtract anything from the commandments that he had given them (Deuteronomy 4:2 and 12:32); but what about Christians who have attempted to observe these festivals? First, like their Jewish brethren, it should be noted that most Christians do not make any attempt to observe the Law of the Central Sanctuary. Instead, a leader or group of men choose(s) some city as a site for festival observance (usually based on the availability of facilities and amenities deemed necessary for its proper observance). Some of them even have the audacity to suggest that their site is the place where God has chosen to place "His" name. When challenged on this point, many of them resort to Christ's statement that "where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matthew 18:20) The folks who offer this excuse seem completely oblivious to the fact that it could also be employed by their brethren who observe Sunday as their day of worship! My grandmother used to say "What's good for the goose is good for the gander" - I think that applies in this case! Also, it should be noted in this connection, that the instruction to meet at the place designated by God applied to ALL of the festivals, not just the Feast of Tabernacles.

Once these Christians arrive at a human designated feast site, most of them employ a tent or camper at a local campground/park or rent a room/suite in a local hotel/motel. How does this compare to what we read in the Mosaic Law? We read there that God instructed the Israelites "And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days...Ye shall dwell in booths (tabernacles, huts, temporary shelters) seven days (Leviticus 23:40-42). Do tents, campers or hotel rooms coincide with taking some tree branches and erecting temporary structures in which to live for seven days? Are tents, campers and hotel rooms reused from year to year? I understand that the stay is temporary, but are the accommodations themselves truly temporary in nature?

Finally, weren't these festivals specifically enjoined upon the children of Israel? (Leviticus 23:2, 42, 44) Aren't these festivals an integral part of the Torah and the Old Covenant? What happened to all of the rituals and sacrifices attached to these festivals (notice Exodus 12, Leviticus 16 and 23 and Deuteronomy 16 in this connection)? Are these Christians saying that these instructions were not part of the provision that stipulated "it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings?" Many of my Christian friends who celebrate these festivals will quickly point out that they are the "TRUE" Jews (Revelation 2:9 and 3:9) - the "TRUE" descendants of Abraham (Galatians 3:29). One question for them: Do these "TRUE" Jews adhere to the physical requirement of circumcision that was enjoined upon the original Jews? (Romans 2:28-29)

I don't have a problem with anyone who attempts to observe these festivals, but please don't try to tell me I'm not a Christian because I don't! Maybe that's why the Apostle Paul instructed the Colossians not to allow anyone to judge them "in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body [reality] is of Christ." (Colossians 2:16-17) What do you think?

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